Shelley Harrison-Valdivia and brother Brent Harrison own Al Harrison Company Distributors Inc., Nogales, Ariz. (UPDATED COVERAGE, Jan. 16) A U.S. Department of Agriculture administrative action against Al Harrison Co. Distributors Inc. for almost $700,000 in unpaid produce bills covered by the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act is “out of date” according to the company’s president.
Brent Harrison, president, said the notice from the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding $690,537 owed to a dozen produce suppliers does not accurately reflect the status of accounts at the third-generation company in Nogales, Ariz. Shelley Harrison-Valdivia owns the company with her brother Brent.
"The AMS audit was six months ago and to date, their figure is off,"Brent Harrison said Jan. 16.
In addition, the Jan. 14 news release from the AMS states the company owes four growers a combined $87,600 in PACA claims for failing to pay for produce from September 2012 through April 2013 when it was acting as a grower agent. The larger amount owed to suppliers includes transactions from April 2012 through April 2013.
“There wasn’t a complaint against us. They (AMS) just came in on their own," Harrison said. "The few guys we owe are our friends and they are working with us.”
USDA public affairs manager Gwen Sparks, however, said the department did receive a complaint against the company. But specific details about such complaints are not made public during an ongoing case, Sparks said.
“A written complaint was received by the PACA office,” Sparks said Jan. 15. “When that happens we have to investigate. We did our due diligence and an administrative action was taken.”
Federal law gives the company 20 days to request a hearing on the action, Sparks said. A hearing would trigger further federal review and possibly show that payments have been made. Hearing outcomes depend on specific facts of each case, Sparks said.
If the company does not request a hearing, the administrative action will go forward. As principals of the company, the Harrisons could be barred from working for or affiliated with any PACA licensee for a year and their company could be barred from operating in the industry for two years.